World Day for Safety and Health at Work: Insights from Dr Stephen Jones, Medilink International’s Chief Medical Advisor
For World Day for Safety and Health at Work on 28th April 2023, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) is promoting international awareness around the theme of “a safe and healthy working environment is a fundamental principle and right at work.” This initiative aims to foster a dialogue among social partners comprising of governments, employers, and workers’ representative bodies, to create integrated solutions that will ensure a safe and healthy working environment for all people.
In line with this day, we are sharing insights from Dr Stephen Jones, a noted expert in the field of Occupational Health, and Medilink International’s Chief Medical Advisor, about how companies can ensure this fundamental right of the health and safety of their employees at work.
Dr Stephen Jones has a distinguished career as an Occupational Physician and Medical Manager in many culturally diverse environments, including more than 20 years in a senior position in the medical department of a multinational oil and gas company. He represented his employer on the joint health committee of the oil and gas trade bodies IOGP and IPIECA, and contributed to the development of several key guidance documents. In addition to his extensive expertise in the oil and gas industry, Stephen has also worked in the UK National Health Service, and in the food, metals, and chemicals industries, giving him a depth of knowledge and experience with a wide range of business sectors.
In his role at Medilink International, he chairs our Clinical Governance Team and is a member of our Advisory Board.
We sat down with Dr Jones for an in-depth conversation on his thoughts about this year’s important theme of a safe and healthy workplace being a “fundamental right” for employees. Here are his insights.
How is a ‘safe and healthy working environment’ defined for you?
A safe and healthy working environment is one where at the very least, a worker’s well-being is not adversely affected by reasons of his/her working conditions. Some people would describe this by saying that a worker should finish a working day and go home to his/her family, as well as when he/she came to work.
Traditionally, attention is heavily placed on preventing workplace accidents and less on employee illnesses. A true safe and healthy work environment gives equal importance and attention to prevent acute incidents (workplace accidents), as well as chronic conditions (occupational illnesses). Data shows that the burden of illnesses on an organisation is usually greater than with accidents. In addition to preventing adverse effects of the workplace, companies should also strongly focus on encouraging and promoting employee health and well-being in the workplace.
The traditional view of focussing on accidents rather than illnesses is often referred to as ‘safety culture’. However, many companies are now adapting the term ‘a culture of health’, which takes into consideration the promotion of employee health, as well the importance of avoiding workplace accidents. Nonetheless, the very use of the word ‘culture’ denotes an ingrained dedication of an organisation to this subject – in all that the business does it has a holistic view of health and safety for its employees as a key/top priority.
If a business can manage the holistic health and safety of its employees, it can manage everything else.
How does Medilink International help companies ensure the health and safety of their employees at work?
At Medilink International, we support our clients in fostering a culture of health and safety by ensuring a collaborative approach in developing and implementing policies and procedures.
Medilink has its own emphasis on health and safety and combines it with that of the client’s, to create compatibility and synergy.
Dr Jones states that some companies might need some encouragement and guidance in adapting a holistic approach that considers the promotion together with prevention. Working with the client and reconciling different approaches and cultures are probably the most challenging aspects of the Medilink and client interface. It is one thing for Medilink to have its own approach, but another to ‘integrate’ this with a client’s. Nonetheless, our teams are trained to apply our health and safety procedures in ways which integrate with client systems, to ensure that one system is an extension of the other and that there are no conflicting messages.
In practical terms, our site medics work alongside site HSE Managers to actively promote an effective health and safety culture via our monthly Health Promotion Campaigns. The campaigns deliver health education materials- which include posters and PowerPoint presentations-to site medics on topics such as Malaria prevention, tips on how to lower the blood sugar level, or how to measure your blood pressure at home. The site medics are given instructions on how to implement the Health Promotion Campaigns to the workers on dedicated World Health Days, on the event of local or global outbreaks, and in activities such as HSE or toolbox meetings.
In line with Dr Jones’ statement, Medilink International actively promotes a healthy and safe environment for our workers, as part of their orientation/induction process. All Medilink staff are required to complete e-learning courses on health and wellness topics which include time management, hydration routines, healthy eating habits, and mental health. These e-learning courses support Medilink’s efforts to foster a holistic health and safety culture where Medilink staff are provided with a safe working environment, as well as guidance on how to live a healthy well-being and lifestyle.
Medilink teams are also encouraged to report health and safety issues and we hope that by doing so other workers on site are also encouraged to report any health and safety issues which they may observe. Reporting should be encouraged and not seen as having potential downsides for the worker. In fact, reporting is promoted as something positive, to prevent an unsafe situation before anything has gone wrong. Every worker must feel comfortable stopping work if there is concern about health and safety. In addition, we also work with our clients to foster an open culture of reporting recordable incidents according to OSHA standards, so that trends may be identified, and corrective actions may be taken.
At Medilink, we strive to go beyond the traditional idea that health and safety only “means” avoiding workplace incidents and accidents; it extends to promoting the health and well-being of all our stakeholders, both for our clients and for our own employees. We are committed to the important message of World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2023, which declares the critical importance of a safe and healthy working environment as a fundamental principle and right to safeguard the health and wellbeing of all employees.
For more information, visit World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2023.
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